Deanna Jean Nichols
Deanna Jean Nichols
  • June 29, 1942 - October 10, 2017
  • Sugar Creek, Missouri

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Deanna Jean Nichols passed away October 10, 2017 at The Villages of Jackson Creek, in Independence, MO, after a one-year struggle with cancer. Deanna was born on June 29, 1942, in Kansas City, MO, to Horace Agustus Nichols and Mary Ellen Robbinett. She was raised in Avondale, MO and graduated from North Kansas City High School, in 1960. She then attended Southwest Missouri State University, in Springfield, MO for two years. In 1965, she received her BFA from Kansas City Art Institute, and in 1967 received her MFA from Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, CA.

Deanna was a very talented and admired potter, artist, and gardener. She was also a great cook. For the majority of her career, she owned and operated Nichols Pottery, in Avondale, MO. Deanna was a founding member of the Kansas City Clay Guild. The joy in her creative life came when people appreciated a piece enough to purchase it. The real payoff, however, would come when a select few of her customers and friends with an artistic eye showed up right after a firing. When these people would naturally gravitate to a piece or two that Deanna thought were the best in the firing....that was her affirmation.

Central to Deanna's life and happiness were her Australian Shepherd dogs: Scobie, Lacy, Tangle, Shine, Julio and Jostles. She constructed Jostles name by using the first letter in the names of the five previous dogs.

She was preceded in death by her father Horace Nichols. Deanna is survived by her life partner Kent Davis, of Sugar Creek, MO, her mother Mary (Jane) Nichols, of Pleasant Valley, MO, her brother John Nichols, of Kansas City, MO, her nephews, Matthew Nichols, of San Marcos, TX, Todd Nichols, of Smithville, MO, and Keenan Nichols, of Kansas City, MO.

A quote from Deanna: "I never wanted center stage in my own life"....but, she was certainly "center stage" to those who knew and loved her, and she will be missed dearly.

A Celebration of Life will be held at White Chapel Funeral Home, Saturday, October 28, 2017 from 2 to 4pm.

Nichols Pottery/ A Brief History of the Career of Deanna Nichols

Early Years:

My pottery career really began at the Kansas City Art Institute in my senior year when the only way to take a class was to switch my minor field from drawing to pottery. That decision coincided with the arrival at the institute of a new dynamic pottery instructor, Kenneth Ferguson. I loved clay and the wheel and soon spent all available extra hours in the pottery studio. The basics for my future career were put in place in that brief year and the influence of Ken Ferguson has followed me throughout.

Ken arranged for me to spend the summer working in the studio of his close friend Henry Mead in Castle Rock, CO and Henry and his wife Nicky found me a part time job working at a tea house, The Golden Dobbin. I learned so much from both of these associations: how to fire kilns, marketing, studio organization, materials, and glazes from Henry and cooking and business from Anne McConnell at the Dobbin. I treasured the time I had with these people in that wonderful place.

Pottery was, however, only my minor field and the BFA earned in 1965 was in painting. I applied to graduate schools and accepted a scholarship offered to me by Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA. The MFA earned there in 1967 was also in painting. I had tried to minor in pottery while there but found it exhausting as the two facilities were at opposite ends of a very large campus. Also, the renowned Paul Soldner was not there as head of the ceramic program that year.

After graduating I took a job at Sullins College in Bristol, VA where I taught a variety of basic art classes for the next two years. I was able to dabble in pottery a bit in the studio of potter Lee Magdanz as the college had no facility. By this time I knew teaching was not to be a major part of my life while pottery would be; but painting was still preeminent.

The summer of ’68 I spent in Europe combing through all the major art museums seeing firsthand art works that I had experienced only in books or slides. I visited Italy’s pottery museum in Faenza and hunted for examples of medieval English pottery in London. That fall I moved to Castle Rock, CO where I once again worked at the Mead studio and taught pottery and painting classes at the University of Colorado’s campus in Colorado Springs.

In ’69 I married and moved to San Diego where I taught part time at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, CA, 1970 brought a move to Norfolk, VA which was propitious for my future as a potter. Once again I was able to pick up a part time teaching job but this one was at The Chrysler Museum School, a very small pottery school located in one of the lovely old homes on the Elizabeth River in the heart of the city. For the first time I set up a partial studio for myself in the basement of our rented home. Glazing and firing were available at the school, and they had a salt kiln. It was a fertile place to have landed both in terms of people and facilities. I found good friends among those involved with the school, was able to begin selling enough of my work to think of myself as a full time professional potter, and thoroughly enjoyed Norfolk and access to the East Coast. Learning about salt firing was icing on the cake.

It was there that I finally made the decision to pursue pottery and let go of painting. Up to this point my pottery had been signed with a handwritten cursive Nichols (from 1964-1970 or ’71). It became confusing to be known by two different names so I began signing both my maiden and my married name using a type set